In his Monday press conference, Oklahoma football head coach Lincoln Riley told the media he believes his defense is ‘not that far off’ from where it needs to be. And for now, OU fans have no choice but to take him on his word.
“You are not going to correct everything overnight.,” Riley told the Daily Oklahoman. “We aren’t happy with how we played last Saturday by any stretch. We’ve got to play better, but those of us in those walls, we see the makings of what we want to be. And we’re not that far off.”
Things certainly felt far off against Oklahoma State. Old problems reared their ugly head like ineffectiveness on third down, lack of pass rush and allowing receivers to break simple bubble screens for big yards. The Sooners gave up more than 600 yards of total offense.
It was the second-straight week the Sooners gave up 40 points and the third time it has happened this season so far. While Oklahoma managed to feast against two bad offenses in TCU and Kansas State, the truth is there is no magic bullet to create a championship-caliber defense.
Yes, the Sooners were banged up and senior safety Kahlil Haughton’s absence was very obvious on the back end, but the real problems came at the same place they have all year for Oklahoma – cornerback and up front.
The Sooners couldn’t get a pass rush and officially had just one quarterback hurry on the day from senior linebacker Curtis Bolton. They also struggled to make competitive plays when the ball was in the air against big and physical receivers.
It wouldn’t matter if Oklahoma hired Nick Saban to come in and take over as defensive coordinator in the middle of the year, those problems aren’t going away overnight.
So what does Riley see that has him so encouraged? Is some of this just coach speak, maybe. But there’s also plenty of reason to trust the eye of the man who has moved all of college football forward on offense over the past four seasons.
There’s still a path to the playoff and Oklahoma proved last year it could compete with the country’s best teams even with a marginal defense. Not to mention should the Sooners manage to survive the next three games by outscoring opponents, they would get a full four weeks of practice to continue their defensive maturation.
For now though, OU fans have no choice but to take their enigmatic coach at his word that things are going to get better.